Lit in Chicago: Resolved to be Resolved

Monday, January 23, 2012

As the new car smell fades from 2012 and resolutions quickly drift into obscurity, I have decided to stand firm to mine.  I am resolved.  I will attend more of Chicago’s literary readings/events in 2012. 

Sure, it’s easy to belittle literary readings, to mock the people who snap and the hipster-poets who shout “What!?” as an awkward affirmation of the writer’s work.  But like all art (performance literature included), some is bad. Some poets rely too heavily on stock intonation.  Some fiction writers don’t read their work aloud before performance, which results in a dryness to rival Charlie Rose.  But some is not all, and I have been moved at literary events.  They have challenged me to consider literature’s intersection with community and technologies (new and old)—I like that.  The Chicago writer Jill Summers (accompanied by her sister, Susie Kirkwood) couples her fiction with intricate and impressive shadow puppet shows.  Poet Shannon Maney uses a looper and plays a mandolin to create beautiful, captivating works.  These writers’ performances are undeniably affecting; they touch some part of me that words on a page (or screen) can’t always reach.      

Chicago plays host to nearly forty (!) reading series (a number which still excludes magazine launches, author readings/signings, conferences, pop up book stores, library events, etc.), so there is no reason to sit at home and watch a third consecutive episode of ABC’s Winter Wipeout.  There is a community of writers and artists seeking an audience, seeking participants.  The longest running poetry slam in the country takes place on Sunday nights at The Green Mill in Uptown.  Most Sunday nights I sit in pajamas and eat until I’m nauseous.  A poetry slam every now and then will be good medicine.

Basically—at the end of 2012 I don’t want to say that I skipped a Michael Chabon reading because TNT was airing The Fifth Element again—which I did, embarrassingly, once do.  I want to remember this year as the year of great literary performance, of writers, writing, and being social—which is, of course, what readings are all about.